Urban Living in a Slice of L.A. History : Angelino Heights: Known for its architecture and historic zone status, community is a secure place where neighbors know each other.


In 1976, Cecil Dover and Edward Postnikoff responded to a newspaper advertisement that promised “a free Victorian home” in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Angelino Heights.

While the two men had no desire to leave their Nichols Canyon home in Hollywood, the notice rekindled memories in Dover of the Victorian homes on Bunker Hill that he once sketched in his student days at Chouinard Art Institute in Downtown Los Angeles.

Even though the “free Victorian home” turned out to be part of a plan to rescue two condemned structures from demolition, Dover said their fascination with the offer continued to grow.

“The Carroll Avenue people had created a foundation to preserve the neighborhood by buying a large empty lot--it otherwise would have become an apartment building--then devised a plan to move two Victorian houses, which were about half a mile away on the west side of Bunker Hill,” Dover said. “We just got intrigued by the idea of saving a little bit of L.A. history.”

Dover paid $35,000 for the land and $10,000 in moving expenses for the “free Victorian house.”


Five minutes from downtown and bounded by Sunset Boulevard on the north, the Hollywood Freeway on the south, Bolyston Street on the east and Echo Park Lake on the west, Angelino Heights has been called Los Angeles’ first suburb. A second distinction was achieved in 1983 when the community became the first Los Angeles neighborhood to receive the designation of Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ).

Dover, who designs commercial projects, and Postnikoff, a hair stylist, put $200,000 into fully restoring the 1887 2,200-square-foot house that Dover called “a shambles.” A large living room was added to compensate for the smaller scale of the other rooms often typical of Victorian homes. They also added a basement.

Although Dover once believed that he could never love a place more than his former home, with its natural hills and native Sycamores, he has changed his mind.

“Our hill is just magnificent,” he said. “I look out my back bedroom window (to) a straight vista across Elysian Park toward the San Gabriel Mountains. We’re right at the intersection of the Harbor, Pasadena, Hollywood and San Bernardino Freeways--we’re so accessible to all the urban delights. Also, I think we’ve enjoyed more friendship with neighbors than any place I’ve ever lived.”

There are some 1,500 households in Angelino Heights’ crescent perimeter. Roughly 80% of the residents live in single-family dwellings; the rest occupy apartments and duplexes. Longtime stays are common among both owners and renters.

While primarily Asian, white and Latino, the hill’s multicultural spectrum reflects the larger city’s ethnic diversity. The mix also brings together a blend of economic stratums; here, it is not surprising that a family of Cambodian refugees and a noted developer become neighbors.

Although people are not always familiar with Angelino Heights, the name of Carroll Avenue often rings a bell. The residences in the 1300 and 1400 blocks represent the highest concentration and best collection of Queen Anne-East Lake Victorians in the city. In fact, the 1300 block is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Besides the 51 Victorians scattered throughout the hill, an array of other architectural influences are evident. These include Mission-Revival, Craftsman-California Bungalow, Brownstone and Streamline Moderne. Significantly, the residents’ regard for preserving the past has turned the community into a safe haven for Victorians threatened with the wrecking ball. In recent years, seven such homes have been moved to Angelino Heights.

The wide range of homes in Angelino Heights frequently “drives brokers/appraisers up the wall,” said Jim Dunham, an agent for Fred Sands Realtors, who specializes in historical and architectural properties. “You’ve got a whole mix in terms of sizes, ages, architectural styles of houses. When you have a property in escrow, it’s not always easy (to give) lenders two or three comparables. There are so many variations on it.”

At the low end of the price range, a 1920s two-bedroom, one-bath fixer-upper on a small lot and a side street sells for $110,000, Dunham said. A 1905, 2,406-square-foot Craftsman on a 8,505-square-foot lot that recently sold for $289,000 represents a high-end example. The average price home is $200,000.

After going on a West Adams’ home tour in 1990, Tracy Stone, Glenda Rovello and Joseph DeSousa decided that by pooling their resources they could afford a home. What mattered most to the three architects who had met in graduate school were size and character. Their requirements were met in a 3,200-square-foot 1906 house with both Victorian and Craftsman features and with a substantial back yard.

“It was perfect,” Stone said. “It had more or less equal bedrooms, which was a big thing. We had room for an office. Enough space for all of us to fit into.”

Added Rovello: “The fact that the house only had two previous owners meant that it hadn’t been significantly altered. The woodwork hadn’t been painted. We wouldn’t have to go through the stripping and refinishing process. It was so lovely to walk in and see all its glory.” They paid $285,000 in a probate sale.

All three friends make the most of the area’s resources. Stone enjoys walking her dog in Elysian Park every day and DeSousa relishes the proximity to Dodger Stadium. “All of our friends meet us here at the house,” he said. “We have a beer on the front porch, then walk over to the ballpark together. I think you can walk back here faster than you can drive out of the parking lot.”

Further east along West Kensington Road, Bob and Patti Good live in a 1905 duplex. Bob Good says he had the recession in mind when the couple bought the 2,600-square-foot former boardinghouse in 1981 and converted it into a duplex. Using his GI bill to get a guaranteed loan and with no down payment, they paid $119,000.

“I had been a renter for years,” said Bob Good, who works for a Downtown title insurance company. “I could see the value of the house going up and I saw the rent creeping up to meet the mortgage. So we moved in and it did. To the point that we were living essentially rent-free.”

Nevertheless, the Goods had their work cut out for them. Besides knocking down walls, stripping off paint and tearing up rugs, they had to contend with the asphalt shingling that covered the building’s exterior. “I had to take off (the shingles) one by one. Putty up all the nail holes. Sand everything down. Give it three coats of paint. That was about three years of painting,” said Bob Good.

Introduced to Angelino Heights by her father who worked in the fire station down the street in the 1920s, Patti Good grew up with a fascination for the big houses. She likes the strong feeling of neighborhood and bristles at the suggestion of suburban friends that their urban home might not be in a safe area.

“According to the local police station, this area is pristine safe,” said Bob Good. “They say up here nothing much happens.”

Barbara Yakooji agrees. The costumer for the studios says she feels very secure in the neighborhood where she waited several years for a spacious two-bedroom duplex to become available. Yakooji, who pays $680 rent for the upper-level unit, loves its charm. “It was so sunny. It has 17 windows--not that I count them,” she laughs. “I really feel like I’m in a house.”

At the height of the real estate boom of the 1880s, prosperous Downtown businessmen and upscale Angelenos cast an appreciative eye on the Angelino Heights tract. The elevated terrain that had been subdivided by William W. Stillson and Everett E. Hall in 1886 offered beautiful views and a quiet pace just a mile and a half from the city’s center. In addition, a cable car running east-west along Temple Street could bring passengers Downtown in no time.

But the banking failures in the East two years later brought construction to a halt and more than 10 years would elapse before any movement started up again. By then the Craftsman/California Bungalow era had begun to take over.

Although Angelino Heights would never regain the prominence it had known, a new luster was acquired between 1915-1920 in the heyday of early movie making. Mack Sennett Studios on Glendale Boulevard filmed the Keystone Kops chase scenes on these residential streets and stars such as Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford found comfortable addresses.

The relatively intact neighborhood began to change in the years following World War II. The housing squeeze caused the construction of apartments and many large homes were converted into multifamily dwellings. Often homes were “modernized” with stucco or asbestos shingles.

By the early 1970s, though, this trend began to reverse itself. Eventually, the growing interest in older homes earned the neighborhood its historic preservation zone status.

These days Angelino Heights is undergoing a new wave of restoration activity. “Everybody is struggling to evolve their dream house out of this fabric that is there,” said Cecil Dover.

But no one is too busy to fail to keep an eye out on their neighbors. “People are always watching (out for each other),” said Patti Good. “When I first moved here I thought it was nosy people. And now I (feel) it’s great. You can’t do anything without everybody knowing about it. But it’s good. It’s sort of like a real old-fashioned town.”

At a Glance

Population 1993 estimate: 9,179 1980-90 change: 6.3%

Annual income Per capita: 8,461 Median household: 23,442

Household distribution Less than $30,000: 58.9% $30,000 - $60,000: 30.8% $60,000 - $100,000: 8.0% $100,000 - $150,000: 2.2% $150,000 +: 0.0%

Angelino Heights Home Sale Data

Sample Size (for 10-year period): 81

Ave. home size (square feet): 1,375

Ave. Year Built: 1920

Ave. No. Bedrms: 2.56

Ave. No. Baths: 1.23

View homes: 8%

Central air: 2%

Floodzone: 40%

Price Range (1993-94): $119,500-152,000

Age Range: 6-94 years

Predominant Age: 85 years


Year Total $ per Median Sales sq. ft. price 1993 3 $123.50 $132,000 1992 6 $120.35 $178,500 1991 3 $110.43 $195,000 1990 5 $117.63 $136,000 1989 18 $125.18 $142,000 1988 13 $93.52 $125,500 1987 17 $78.49 $112,000 1986 11 $70.13 $90,000 1985 5 $62.53 $76,000

1994 data not available.

Source: TRW Redi Property Data, Riverside